They were just making a routine run to the garden nursery, but my parents called and told us all to be waiting for them on the couch. This usually meant a present or surprise of some kind, but it could have been anything from candy bars to a new little sister. It’s tradition in our house to make everything a special occasion. They said I should sit in the middle, but this wasn’t unusual since I’m the middle daughter.
My dad walked in from the kitchen holding a little cardboard box. It was meowing. There was a cat in that box. I immediately started preparing for the worst. This was a cat for the whole family. That would be ok. I could share. Really, I reasoned, this could all be a horrible prank. My parents had found some sort of cat sound machine. I don’t know why I thought that was an option. My parents had never been practical jokers, and anyone who had been in the same room with me for more than a few minutes knew that I wanted a cat more than anything.
For the last few years, I had been dropping the most obvious hints I could think of. I remember one Christmas rendition of We Wish You A Merry Christmas where I substituted “kitty” for “figgy”. I was a quiet child, but I didn’t go in for subtlety. I drew picture after picture of my ideal cat: small, gray. I even had the perfect name picked out. If I ever got my little gray cat, I’d name her Cloudy Day. This was the height of poetry to my nine year old self.
When my parents brought in that box of cat, it was more than I could handle. After nine agonizing years of all my hints being ignored, I had about given up hope. My sisters and I opened up the box, and this tiny gray fluff popped out. I was devastated. Not only was I going to have to share this cat, but it was my dream cat. I was going to have to submit my name idea to be approved at our next sister meeting, and I’d be lucky if “Cloudy Day” even made it as middle name.
I was quieter than usual. My parents were concerned. Didn’t I like her? Of course I did, but she was for everybody, so it didn’t really matter. They laughed a little bit. They explained that Melissa and Elizabeth both got special attention for being the oldest and youngest girls, and they wanted to make sure I didn’t feel left out. This kitten was for me. Did I have any ideas for a name?
Over the next few years, I became an expert on experimental cat parenting techniques. I had already read the “Cat” entry in the family encyclopedia a dozen times, so I branched out to more specific books on cat breeds, cat home remedies, cat training. I supplemented these more serious works with James Harriot’s Cat Stories and The House of Thirty Cats I had plans to become the world’s first cat-only vet. If anyone asked me her breed, I could tell them confidently that she was an “American Longhair Blue Smoke Tortoise Shell”, which was longhand for “grey and brown cat-mutt”. I bought Cloudy a leash and spent hours trying to get her to “heel”. She would not.
Cloudy and I shared everything. This wasn’t always by my choice. She preferred that I drink water so that she could share comfortably. Hot chocolate was another favorite. She did not appreciate when I started drinking coffee, and would let me know by sniffing disdainfully at my mug and then trying to steal my breakfast. If she hadn’t been so polite about her sharing habits, I might not have put up with it, but she always dipped a paw into my glass and drank it by licking drops of her little hand. This is also how she ate her cat food: she’d drop a few pieces onto the ground and pick them up one at a time, popping them like popcorn.
She slept by me every night, under the covers. When I moved to the top bunk, she taught herself to climb the ladder, a feat that required intense concentration every time. She was very particular about how she would sleep. She wanted to be near me, but not too close. Often, I would wake up to see that she’d reached out her little paw so that she was holding my hand.
I had Cloudy for sixteen years. That’s more than half my life. This means that over the years, she has wrinkled the pages of Betsy-Tacy, tracked milk across my Algebra homework, deleted paragraphs from college essays on my laptop, and hidden my smart phone with strategic sleep positions. She was a faithful friend when I needed one badly. She never did well when I left home, but she always greeted me at the door and forgave me for the inconvenience I had caused.
I lost her today, and I didn’t expect it. She had been on several medications for the last year, and I knew she was getting on in years, but I think I just didn’t know what life would look like without her waiting at home for me. I’m grateful that I was home when it happened, and that I got to say goodbye. I don’t really have a point to make, even though this would be a great place to say something profound about the relationships between people and animals, or maybe about growing up. Mostly, I’m just sad, and I wanted a place to put some of these memories and say that I love my little cat, and I’m going to miss her.
I apologize for the quality of these smartphone photos. I did that thing where I charged my camera battery, then I put it somewhere for “safe keeping”. If found, please send my camera battery to www.staircasewit.co, c/o the Internet.
I recently gained a new neighbor.
Ok. That’s only a little true. However, Kate, one of my closest friends and favorite people from college, did just move from Texas to Michigan. I mean, really, if Illinois is the Land of Lincoln, and Michigan is shaped like a glove…it’s all very complicated and mathmatical. Just believe me. We’re neighbors.
To prove her neighborliness, Kate came to visit.
And, of course I know it’s backwards. That was on purpose. To match the letterpress ampersands. Ahem.
I blame Kate for my current obsession with DIY blogs. She’s the one who introduced me to Young House Love, and she’s the one I send fevered text messages to when I don’t know if I should move my chair a little to the left or not. Since she just bought a new house, and I am trying to put the finishing touches on my little apartment, it was only appropriate that we spend the weekend thrifting and redecorating.
The estate sale was practically empty. It was the last day and every thing was half off. There were a few lamps and some hopefully priced silver pieces. We did a quick run through the house anyway, just because it had taken us so long to find the place. Kate and I, we are stubborn people. In the very back spare bedroom, leaning against the wall, was a 4ft by 3ft oil painting of a ship in a stormy sea. Kate was smitten. We looked at it for a long time. She said something about her husband not wanting more oil paintings.
“Kate,” I said. “How else will your kids will get to Narnia?”
“I was just thinking that.”
Fortunately, my Mini Cooper was made for haulin’.
Update: Kate posted better photos of the oil painting over at her cozy blog, Pomegranates and Pit Bulls.
We made a quick stop at my favorite furniture thrift store Jubilee. Jubilee supports a local mission, and they have taken over an old department store. It’s the size of your typical J.C. Penny’s, but full to the brim with gently used furniture. They give you cookies when you come in. Obviously, I’m there every weekend.
We were looking for end tables for Kate to make paint and epoxy magic with, but we didn’t find anything that was just right. I did find a little hobnail lamp for my bedside table, and I got to show Kate some midwestern hospitality when Jubilee’s proprietor showed up and greeted us with a big “Hi Jess!”
I particularly wanted to bring Kate to one of my new favorite stores, Gather and Collect. I love this place. It’s just a small storefront, but the store is so packed with vintage and upcycled goodness that we spent at least an hour doing laps around the store, making sure not to miss anything.
Kate picked up a couple of hobnail glass dishes (now we’re hobnail friends), and I accidentally picked up an alcohol-proof tray. I may or may not have several of these. (I forgot to get a picture, but it looks sort of like this one.) I don’t know why I have this need to own alcohol-proof trays. It’s probably William Powell’s fault.
We spent a good part of the weekend getting some pictures framed and up on my poor bare walls, but I’m saving that for another post. It was an altogether lovely weekend. Old friends are hard to come by, and I’m so glad to have Kate back in the Midwest. Complicated mathematics or not, she’s my favorite new neighbor.
So, how about you? Any good thriftstore finds lately?
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This blog belongs to Jesse Doogan.
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